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Endangered Turtles First Admits to Reopened Animal Rescue Clinic

Mystic, Conn. (December 21, 2020): Seven critically endangered Kemp’s ridley turtles recently arrived at Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program. The turtles, which were rescued in Massachusetts, are the first to receive care at the Milne Ocean Science and Conservation Center since the Animal Rescue Program officially resumed operation on November 19.

The Kemp’s ridley turtle is listed as critically endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The species is also the world’s most endangered sea turtle.

The turtles were found cold-stunned by volunteers of the Mass Audubon’s Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary near Cape Cod between December 7- 14 before being transferred to the National Marine Life Center (NMLC) in Bourne, MA to be stabilized.  With the abundance of cold-stunned turtles this winter, additional facilities were sought to provide the much-needed care.

“While you never want to see animals in distress, we are so grateful to have the opportunity to lend a hand in the rehabilitation of these sea turtles,” said Dr. Allison Tuttle, Vice President of Zoological Operations at Mystic Aquarium. “While all species of sea turtles are of conservation concern, the Kemps Ridley sea turtles are critically endangered, making rescue and rehabilitation of each individual vital to the species’ survival. This group of turtles will receive the critical care they need so we can get them back into the open ocean.”

As cold-blooded reptiles, sea turtles depend on the temperature of their surroundings to maintain their body temperature. When temperatures rapidly decline and sea turtles are unable to reach warmer waters, they can suffer from a form of hypothermia called cold stunning.

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries recently reported that of the more than 500 cold-stunned sea turtles found so far this year, the vast majority are the critically endangered Kemp’s ridley.

Kemp’s ridley turtles, named after Richard M. Kemp, a fisherman from Key West, Florida, who first submitted the species for identification in 1906, are the smallest marine turtle in the world.

Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program was shuttered in March 2020 as a result of the numerous public health restrictions imposed during Connecticut’s COVID-19 shutdown.

More information on Mystic Aquarium’s Animal Rescue Program, visit https://www.mysticaquarium.org/conservation-impact/animal-rescue/

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